BOSTON — While the Boston Red Sox still could bring back Stephen Drew for the 2014 season, it sounds as if general manager Ben Cherington is prepared to move on with confidence if things don’t work out.
Cherington reiterated Tuesday that the Red Sox are keeping an open dialogue with Drew and the shortstop’s agent, Scott Boras. The Red Sox GM wasn’t willing to reveal the exact details of their negotiations, though, instead insisting that he’s more focused on the players currently on Boston’s roster.
“I’m not making any assumptions, but we’re just really focused on who we have here right now. We feel like we’re in good shape to start the season tomorrow if we had to,” Cherington said. “There’s a circumstance for the Red Sox in that we have players that we believe in and bigger-picture things that we want to do, etc., and some of that has nothing to do with Stephen Drew. Stephen did a great job for us last year. We respect him, and because of that, we’ve kept a dialogue going. But there’s nothing to be gleaned from that other than we’ve kept a dialogue going. We’re very comfortable with where we are, but we’ll see. I don’t ever want to rule anything out because it doesn’t make sense to do that, but we like the roster we have right now.”
The Red Sox likely will begin the season with Will Middlebrooks at third base and Xander Bogaerts at shortstop if Drew signs elsewhere in free agency. Both players are young — especially Bogaerts, who is 21 — and Middlebrooks struggled last season, so there’s obviously some risk involved with leaning heavily on the tandem in 2014. It’s a risk that the Red Sox appear more willing to take as we get deeper into the offseason.
“We have issues on our own and we’re mostly focused on those issues,” Cherington said. “We’re mostly focused on what we feel is right for us and what is best, and because there’s a mutual respect with [Drew] and with Scott [Boras], of course if it makes sense to talk, we’ll talk. The time that’s being spent on it being talked about publicly is not necessarily consistent with the time that we’re spending on it.”
The debate over re-signing Drew will rage on all season long, no matter where he ends up. On one hand, Drew, who hit .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs in 124 regular season games while also playing superb defense, would make the Red Sox a deeper squad. But on the other hand, re-signing Drew, who turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer at the beginning of free agency, likely won’t come cheap, meaning that Boston might prefer to roll the dice with its two young guns in Middlebrooks and Bogaerts. Whatever the case, Cherington isn’t ruling out anything with spring training inching closer.
“I think we feel good. There’s no date on which you just stop considering moves because that’s limiting yourself in a way that I don’t think we have to do,” Cherington said. “We feel very good about the team we have, and I expect there will be a small handful of additions to camp before we actually get to Florida. What kinds of additions those are remain to be seen.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell also said Tuesday that his focus is on working with the players currently on Boston’s roster. Farrell understands that rosters can change even after spring training gets underway, though, and the skipper appears ready to adapt to any tweaks that might be made.
“I think we have the ability to adjust relatively quick, if that were to be the case,” Farrell said. “The one thing that’s clear — and this is where Ben has been relentless — is trying to build a roster that has the highest number of really good players, and if there’s one that makes sense for us, I’m sure we’ll look very close at it.”
Th Red Sox undoubtedly will closely monitor the Drew situation, especially since the shortstop doesn’t appear to have many other suitors. But with pitchers and catchers reporting to Fort Myers in less than a month, the chances of Drew returning are dwindling without a lot of pushback from the Red Sox.